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Pinax (plaque) with Athena Ergane enthroned in naiskos (small temple), once looted from the Timpone della Motta but now returned to the National Archaeological Museum at Sibari, 650-‘30 BC.
Pinax (plaque) with Athena Ergane enthroned in naiskos (small temple), once looted from the Timpone della Motta but now returned to the National Archaeological Museum at Sibari, 650-‘30 BC.

III.A.5. Athena Ergane enthroned in naiskos, from the Athenaion, Timpone della Motta

A small pinax (height 10.5 cm, thickness 2.5 cm) shows a goddess in a naiskos  with a folded garment on her knees. The small temple is rendered as a broad rectangular frame with four flattened sides; the lintel is decorated with an undulating garland or plain woollen band and is not very deep. The two side walls of the naiskos are tapering slightly downwards. The goddess on her throne is placed in the centre and given a base, which identifies the image as a cult statue. The broad plane of the skirt is flanked by the legs of a seat; the left one has a bulging top. Compared to the skirt part, the torso is squat and the head disproportionally large.

The face, with a low brow, very large eyes and a slightly open mouth with thin lips, is flanked by three voluminous strands of hair. The cylindrical polos (stiff ceremonial hat) is small and protrudes from the centre of the head.

The goddess is dressed in a tight fitting bodice with short sleeves ending just above her waist.  The oblong object held between her hands has rounded ends and is slightly convex and was convincingly identified as a folded or rolled garment by Hans Jucker.

The pinax, made of local clay, may have been painted, which will have enhanced the expressive eyes and, if the garment in the goddess’ lap was given a pattern, its correct reading would have been easier. Traces of red paint are visible on the skirt. The object is partly mould-made (head and upper part of the body), partly hand-modelled (lower part of body and naiskos). 

The object, small though it is, is of enormous importance, because it is one of the earliest sculptural renderings of a seated goddess in the Greek world that has come down to us.

The style of this work of art is called Daedalic, after the mythical sculptor Daidalos.

The roots of images like this lie in Anatolia – the same goes for Daidalos himself - and experts have shown that the 7th c. BC Daedalic style in Greek art, which was very popular on Crete and in the Pelopponesos was heavily influenced by Anatolian sculpture.

In the case of this small Athena this artistic pedigree helps to interpret the representation, because it are especially Anatolian goddesses that are rendered in niches or naiskoi.

In this case, moreover, there is the reference of Athena of Troy (Athena Ilias) to whom beautiful garments are offered by the Trojan queen Hekuba, in the hope that the goddess will change her mind and protect the Trojan heroes instead of the Greek ones (Iliad  ). Thus this specific rendering shows that the Athena venerated on the Timpone della Motta was the Trojan and not the Athenian Athena. The veneration of Athena Ilias along the Ionian shore of South-Italy is well-known from literary sources, e.g. for Siris-Herakleia.

That goddess in later times is often shown as Ergane, with spinning utensils (cf. Museum no. III.A.6.) and this aspect connects the 7th c. BC version of the goddess with the older veneration on the Timpone della Motta.

The object was looted from the Timpone della Motta and is after its return exhibited in the Archaeological Museum at Sibari.